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Comments & Curiosities: Serving up the facts on fish fries

June 04, 2011|By Peter Buffa

But whatever the region and whoever is frying it up, a common ingredient is the super confidential, White House clearance, if-I-tell-you-I-have-to-kill-you trade secrets for everything from fish to batter to oil temperature and, above all, seasoning.

It's all about the seasoning. Fish fry cooks get every bit as crazy about this stuff as chili chefs, if not more. Each cook's blend of seasonings is passed from one generation to the next in what I assume are super secret fish fry meetings where they wear special fish hats and repeat chants about Zatarains or Southern Star seasoning that are 100 years old, at least.

Is the Lions Fish Fry the biggest in the universe? Actually, no.

That honor belongs to the Paris Fish Fry. Not that Paris ... Paris, Tenn. Do you know where that is?

Neither do I. But they host the mother of all fish fries every year in the last week of April. Do you know when the Paris Fish Fry started? I do. 1938. Get out and shut the door. You could have knocked me over with a feather.

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It was called Mule Day, don't ask, from 1938 to the early 1950s, when it became the Paris-Henry County Fish Fry, then claimed the title of the world's biggest fish fry in 1960, which is one of those claims you have to love because who is going to disprove it?

They now claim that they cook and serve more than 5 tons of fish in the Robert E. "Bobby" Cox Memorial Fish Tent, which I assume was named for a Civil War general who marched to Atlanta and became the Braves' manager. They do things differently in the South.

I believe that's it — fish, fries and hush puppies, fritters not shoes. Don't ask about the seasoning, they won't tell you and you could be fined and/or arrested.

The Lions Fish Fry, it's a tradition, it's fun, it's all low-fat and high-fiber, sort of. I gotta go.

PETER BUFFA is a former Costa Mesa mayor. His column runs Sundays. He may be reached at ptrb4@aol.com.

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